Larch March: Cutthroat Pass
DATE HIKED: 10/6/18
TOTAL DISTANCE/ASCENT: 10 MILES AND 2,000 FT
REQUIRED PERMIT: NO
DOG FRIENDLY: YES
LOCATION: PACIFIC CREST TRAIL/ NORTH CASCADES
RECREATION PASS: NORTHWEST FOREST PASS
Alpine larches are distinct among the pointy trees (conifers) in that they’re not evergreen; instead, their needles act like leaves and turn golden yellow for a few weeks in October before falling to the ground in defeat.
It was time for the annual larch march. To see these special trees that all the PNW hikers go crazy for, for a few weeks in October. I love fall and the colors and larches and am all about it. For our third annual North Cascades fall car camping event, we chose this hike to see the larches. We stayed at Lone Fir campground (15 minutes away) the night before and after the hike. There are two approaches to this hike- one via Cutthroat Lake (which makes it a bit longer) or one via the PCT, which we did. We parked at the trailhead, Rainy Pass, and started at about 9:30. The parking lot was already full with cars lining the side of the road. We had a large group of 11 hiking this day, but we naturally split into two groups based on speed. The first few miles are through the woods. The peaks around start to come into view, and larches start to reveal themselves. There was a fresh dusting of snow all around that made it quite magical. Two seasons colliding at once. Although this is longer at 10 miles, the elevation gain is not bad at all and it goes quite quickly. We all brought microspikes, but never needed them. We eventually got to the pass and relaxed, ate lunch and took in the mountain views.
After lunch, we explored a little further up to a saddle half a mile away. We got a higher view of the peaks around and had so much fun soaking in the good weather. I could’ve stayed up there all day.
We went back down the trail and saw a crazy amount of people coming up including backpackers, PCTers, and even horses!
We went back to camp and enjoyed the luxuries of car camping with a fire going all night and all the good food and beverages. A few of us left camp before 10 to capture the stars above Liberty Bell Mountain.
The next morning we had a slow morning heading out. Some hiked Blue Lake nearby, we opted to make bacon and eggs before heading out. We stopped by Liberty Bell one more time to see it in the day light.
If you are looking for larches, put this hike at the top of your list.